Feeding Your Cat

Keep your cat healthy and active by providing the right nutrition at each stage of life.
What's on the Menu?
5 kittens posing, various colors The best food for your cat is a
matter of preference --
hers and yours!

To grow and thrive, your cat needs the right amounts of protein, fat, minerals, vitamins, and water. Commercial cat foods are formulated to provide these nutrients in the correct balance.

You'll find cat food at the supermarket or pet-food store in three forms -- dry, semi-moist, and wet (canned). Each offering has certain advantages and disadvantages. Any one of these -- or some combination of them -- might be the best mealtime choice for your cat. Even if you stick to one type of cat food, you might choose to offer your cat two or three different flavors to add some variety to her diet. Discuss the options with your veterinarian. He or she can also tell you how much and how often to feed your cat, depending on weight.

Canned and dry foods are also available in formulations to fit the special nutritional needs of cats at different life stages. There are foods geared to kittens, older cats, and overweight or less-active cats. Pregnant and nursing cats also have special needs. Consult your veterinarian to find out which formula is best for your cat at each stage.

Note: Don't attempt to substitute dog food for cat food. Dogs and cats have very different nutritional needs, and dog food fails to provide certain nutrients that are essential to a cat's health.

Dry Foods

Dry foods are six to nine percent water. Their other ingredients include cereals, grain by-products, bone meal, fish meal, milk products, and vitamin and mineral supplements. The bite-size pieces are covered with flavor enhancers, such as animal fat, to make them more appealing to a cat's palate.

Advantages:

  • Lower cost compared with other types of cat food.
  • Can be left out all day, so your cat can eat whenever she is hungry.
  • Smaller amounts are required to satisfy a cat's appetite.

Disadvantages:

  • Less tempting than other types of cat food to most cats.
  • Less easily digestible than other types of cat food.

Semi-Moist Foods

Semi-moist foods are about 35 percent water. These foods are made of mostly meat and meat by-products, and even look somewhat like ground meat or tiny chunks of meat. They also contain soybean meal, cereals, grain by-products, and preservatives to prevent spoilage. Discard what's left in an opened package of semi-moist food as soon as it begins to look and feel dried out.

Advantages:

  • Less costly than canned food.
  • Can be left out all day, so your cat can eat whenever she is hungry.
  • More appealing to some cats than dry food.

Disadvantages:

  • Taste declines and product spoils after package is opened.
  • More expensive than dry food.

Canned Food

Canned foods are at least 75 percent water. They are offered in a wide variety of flavors, and their primary ingredient may be chicken, fish, or organ meats such as kidney and liver. They come in sizes ranging from three-to-six-ounce "gourmet" tins to 12-to-22-ounce "ration" cans that can feed more than one cat or provide multiple servings for a single pet. For safety's sake, discard uneaten canned food after it has sat in your pet's dish for two to four hours.

Advantages:

  • Very appealing taste, even to finicky cats.
  • Unopened cans have long shelf life.
  • Good dietary source of water.

Disadvantages:

  • Higher cost than other types of food.

Continued on page 2:  Beyond the Food Bowl